By Pius Adesanmi
Senator Dino Melaye is a tragic commentary on Nigerian society. No, scratch that, he is an indictment on Nigerian society. He is one of those reasons why I have argued over the years that Nigeria’s membership of 21st century civilization should be suspended by the international community until we have shown sufficient evidence that we are even minimally aware of civilization and modernity.
It is not what you are thinking. What showcases Dino Melaye as evidence of the irreparable decay of Nigeria’s core – if we ever had a core as a people and a nation-state – is not the luxury car showroom that he has opened up on the parking lot of the National Assembly. It is not his constant displays of above-your-legitimate-income opulence. After all, because more than 90% of Nigerians live above their means, we have decided that what is done in civilization is not for us. What is done in civilization is that at the slightest hint of living above your means, Big Brother visits you seeking explanations.
If Bill and Hillary Clinton were to suddenly buy even three of Dino Melaye’s cars, they could go to jail if they were unable to account for the cars. Barack and Michelle Obama have been saying that they want to hang around Washington, DC after the White House so that their daughter can complete high school. Good for them but Uncle Sam is already waiting and watching. Uncle Sam wants to see what kind of house they are going to buy in Washington and in which neighbourhood. Uncle Sam wants to see what kinds of cars they will use. Uncle Sam has a pretty good idea of how much they have ever earned their entire lives. Uncle Sam has a rough idea of what they will be earning after the White House. If they display half of Dino Melaye’s opulence after eight years in the White House, they could go to jail.
As already stated, I am not evaluating Dino Melaye on this basis because his life above his means does not violate our ethos and values in Nigeria. He is not in contravention of our ethics and collective morality. But he is also a wife molester. He is of a very violent disposition. Pictures of badgered and battered and bloodied women who have had the misfortune of crossing his path litter the internet. Police case files are readily available if you care to Google. And very recently, he decided that physical violence against women is not enough, symbolic violence against Nigerian womanhood must be added to his tally of Nigerian cred. On the floor of Nigeria’s rotten Senate, he urged his colleagues to consider acquiring made-in-Nigerian women. Evidently, Nigerian women rank less than his cars in his estimation.
In civilization, it is not possible to have photos of beaten and bloodied women on your plate and be elected a Senator. And if such evidence of a long history of violence against women came to light after your election, it could mark the end of your career and, most importantly, your social standing. Does anybody still remember Senator John Edwards who nearly became Vice President of the United States? He is history. He now lives in obscurity. In Nigeria, a violent woman beater like Dino Melaye is not just in the Senate, his social and political capital is intact. He is still a big man – entitled to everything that goes with that territory in Nigeria.
One thing that goes with the territory of being an accredited and NAFDAC-certified big man in Nigeria is your superiority over the citizenship of the ordinary Nigerian. If you are a big man, the ordinary Nigerian is your floor mat and your toilet paper rolled into one. The more you trample upon his human dignity, the more you empty his citizenship of meaning, the more he adores and adulates and worships you. When he sees evidence of all that you have stolen from him, he admires you and uses you as testimony: the God that provided Dino Melaye’s mansions and cars will also provide my own. Dino has arrived. God has blessed him. That is why you see these Nigerians forming a football supporters’ club around Dino Melaye’s cars on the parking lot of the National Assembly. In civilization, citizens would detain those cars and call the authorities.
When you consider Dino Melaye’s status and standing in Nigeria; when you consider the fact that our morality, ethos, and values confer legitimacy on him precisely because of ill-begotten wealth and his propensity to beat women, then you will understand why Sahara Reporters recently sent a white Reporter to ask him questions that no Nigerian journalist or media house would dare to ask a “Distinguished Senator of the Federal Republic”! Nigerians have been having a good laugh over Dino’s spirited efforts to escape from that white reporter.
What many Nigerians miss is that the reasons that made Omoyele Sowore send a white reporter after Dino Melaye devolve from the worthlessness of the citizenship of the Nigerian vis-à-vis the Nigerian big man. Tragically, the worthlessness of his citizenship is always the handiwork of the Nigerian. He is the one who maintains and services that worthlessness on behalf of the big man. You will notice that until the appearance of that white journalist, Dino Melaye was having a blast amidst throngs of Nigerian youths admiring him and angling for selfies.
What Sowore is telling you is that he understands that your citizenship is so worthless that had a Nigerian journalist dared to ask Dino Melaye the same questions as that white journalist, he would have ordered him beaten to a pulp right there in broad daylight, before phoning the Lagos Police Commissioner and ordering him to come and arrest the said journalist and nothing, absolutely nothing, would have happened. The youth looking for selfies with Dino would even have joined in harassing such a Nigerian citizen for daring to question “a whole Senator”. Shior! Useless journalist! You no get respect?
Many Nigerians have been making that episode about the race of the white journalist who dared to ask Dino to account for the source of his opulence. No, it is not about race. It is about the value and supremacy of that journalist’s citizenship of a country in modernity and civilization. What Sowore understood only too well is that Dino Melaye may be an arrogant and bullish Nigerian big man used to trampling on the rights of ordinary Nigerian citizens, he would not dare to disrespect the supremacy of a Western citizen. This is what the Yoruba call “b’aja ba n gbo”.
B’aja ba n gbo is why Dino – an almighty Nigerian Senator who would have beaten his own fellow Nigerian to a pulp – was shaking like an antelope who just saw a lion when confronted with the citizenship of a Westerner. B’aja ba n gbo means that a crazy dog may do all the gragra in this world and bark and harass visitors, such a dog must still bow to the supremacy of its human owner.
If you still think that this is about race, fast forward to London and let us encounter Imo state Governor, Rochas Okorocha, at Chatham House. As we all know, Okorocha is another misguided oaf ruining a state in Nigeria and doing big man all over our public sphere. If you are an ordinary Nigerian and you cross Okorocha’s path in Nigeria, well, you know what his aides and guards and thugs would do to you. And nothing will happen because your citizenship is worthless before the actors and institutions of Nigerian statehood.
But in London, a pro-Biafran protester crossed Okorocha’s path. The protester claimed his right to protest, to heckle, to proclaim himself a proud Biafran. For much less in Nigeria, the Nigerian state is mass shooting people like that Biafran protester. The Nigerian state has even only recently appeared to be saying that the cows of Fulani herdsmen are superior to the citizenship of the Nigerian, hence the government will import grass from Brazil to sort out the cows first before addressing the question of lives lost during protests. To date, nobody has been arrested for shooting protesters. And citizens who held a meeting with the police to declare that they murdered their own fellow citizens because their cows were killed walked out of that meeting, their heads held high.
The Biafran who crossed Okorocha’s path in London and lived to tell the story is not white. Poor Okorocha! He had no way of telling if the guy has dual citizenship. You do not want to go and harass a British citizen in Britain. Okorocha would have been taught the value of citizenship had anything happened to that guy. The sad part is that the protester doesn’t even have to be a British citizen to enjoy his full rights to human dignity. He would still have enjoyed full protection of the state had Okorocha forgotten where he was momentarily and had the guy assaulted. Okorocha would have been prevented from returning to Nigeria. He’d be in London now facing assault charges. Okorocha respected himself by bowing to the supremacy of the citizen in London. That is b’aja ba n gbo at work.
So, what unites the pro-Biafra Nigerian protester in London and the white journalist who accosted Dino Melaye is that both men confronted two Nigerian brutes while operating within the orbit of Western conceptualizations of the supremacy of the citizen. This is what citizenship is in modernity. This is what citizenship is in civilization. This is why I can neither sleep nor rest until the Nigerian attains this level of citizenship.
But you, Nigerian, must also understand that the Dino Melayes and Rochas Okorochas of this world will never grant you this level of citizenship. It is not in their interest for you to attain the level of consciousness and enlightenment that could free you from the hold they have over you. The hold they have over you is psychological terrorism. That is why you believe that, as big men, they are entitled to the things they do to you as citizens of Nigeria. To sustain their right to empty your citizenship of worth and trample upon your human dignity, their class has destroyed education in Nigeria.
But you must remember that in the Yoruba philosophy of b’aja ba n gbo, there are two actors in the scenario: a dog and a human being. The Yoruba are saying that the mad, barking dog must know when to bow to the superiority of its human owner. That philosophy encapsulates the relationship between you and your leaders in a democracy. They are the dogs who must recognize and bow to the supremacy of your citizenship.
You, Nigerian citizen, are the owner of the dog. Act your part!
Pius Adesanmi is Nigerian Social commentator living in Canada